The Girl Who Stole Stockings is a meticulously researched and engaging true story about 12-year-old Colchester-born servant, Susannah Noon, who, in 1811, was convicted of stealing stockings and sentenced to seven years transportation on the convict ship, Friends. The story is two-fold: firstly, Susannah’s changing fortunes and society in early convict New South Wales; and secondly, her marriage to convicted bigamist Samuel Cave and their eventual arrival in a remote whaling community in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds in 1838—and being one of only two Pakeha (white) women for miles.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Geraldine Brooks is a master storyteller, whose obsession with her subject matter gleams from the pages of her latest novel, The Secret Chord, like the golden Ark of the Covenant. Perhaps it is her previous life as a war correspondent, but she has a way of observing setting and walking in the shoes of her characters that I swear she must have been there with David, listening to him compose his mourning song for Yonatan, or watching Bathsheva ladle scented water over her body on the rooftop.
I saw Brooks at an Auckland Writers Festival event at the Maidment Theatre last month and was captivated by her immense love of research, her vast knowledge of varied subjects, and her ability to recreate a world. In The Secret Chord, as in Caleb’s Crossing (2011) [read my review here] and in Years of Wonder (2001) [which I am part way through—yes I’m having a Brooks-fest], she takes an historic time, layers it with real-life characters and imagines the rest: their thoughts, their dialogue, their every day. Of course this is a tried and true narrative method (my article on ‘Creating Fictional Worlds’ appears in the Summer 2015 issue of NZ Author magazine), but some people—Brooks—do it a hell of a lot better than others. I’ll give an example passage shortly. But first, to the structure.
In a strange colliding of worlds I interviewed my teacher at the time, Paula Morris, for The Heart of the Matter. Paula is as funny and candid in an interview as she is in class. If you haven’t read her masterpiece, Rangatira (2011), the summer break is the perfect time to rectify that!
More lovewordsmusic Paula Morris book reviews:
Forbidden Cities (2008)
On Coming Home (2015)
Hi there! From now on I’m going to upload my published magazine work here, for two reasons: firstly so I can share my work with you all; and secondly as an online portfolio and record of my published work. All stories published here have been published elsewhere first.
I interviewed home-staging queen, Dinah Malyon, earlier this year in her Aladdin’s cave of homewares in Parnell.